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Tracee Ellis Ross, Cold Copy, Tribeca Film Festival
Tracee Ellis Ross in 'Cold Copy at Tribeca Film Festival (courtesy of Tribeca FF)

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘Cold Copy’

In Cold Copy, Tribeca Film Festival’s Spotlight Narrative feature, debut filmmaker and writer Roxine Helberg presents the toxic allure of power. Positing nothing new, the filmmaker reveals that those rarely given a place at the table in historically patriarchal institutions get ahead by adopting corrupt processes. Oftentimes, they throw ethics out the window. Additionally, they create their own self-perpetuating systems to maintain power by exploiting both men and women as their puppets.

With passion the filmmaker/writer examines these concepts in advancing the story of Mia Scott (Bel Powley). An idealistic, budding journalist, Mia claims in a practice-interview monologue that journalism means finding the truth and presenting it without distortion. Ironically, this hopeful admission appears quaint in the current environment of faux conservative “news.”

Mia Blows up Her Interview With Diane Heger

However, Mia longs for acceptance into cable news icon Diane Heger’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) journalism class, as she is unaware and inexperienced with cable news operations. The renowned class offers a stellar opportunity to gain entrance to a network where Heger holds dominion. But during her interview with Heger, Mia blows herself up. Confronting Heger, who rattles her, instead of “keeping cool,” Mia leaves abruptly and hopelessly without a followup.

Surprisingly, Heger accepts Mia into the class. Clearly, Mia’s retort to Heger has revealed her rapacious appetite to “be a part of it.” In the class and under Heger’s power, Mia competes ferociously with the other students, one of them her roommate (Nesta Cooper). Even in the initial interview process, Mia exposes her amorality when she forgets to give Heger a folder from a friend competing for placement. Though a minor oversight, it comes back to haunt her by the film’s conclusion – and suggests Mia’s corruptibility.

‘Cold Copy’ and Female Power Dynamics

Though Cold Copy rehashes elements about female power dynamics in the patriarchy, elements seen in countless films, the film’s strength lies in its performances. Portraying a malevolent force in her own right, Tracee Ellis Ross mesmerizes as Heger. As she steps beyond the caricature of the classic, edgy, boss dominatrix, we realize that as a Black woman, her limited options guide her decisions.

On the other hand, Powley’s Mia entices with a combination of stealth, ravenous ambition and naïveté. Mia underestimates her own lack of moral compass. Enamored of her own self-righteousness at seeking “truth,” she blinds herself to her corruptibility.

(L to R): Roxine Helberg, Bel Powley, Trace Ellis Ross after the screening of Cold Copy, at Tribeca Film Festival (courtesy of Carole Di Tosti)

Intrigued, we note how the women go head to head when Mia creates a biographical documentary on the son of a famous author who committed suicide. Ingratiating herself to needy, precocious teen Igor Nowak (the excellent Jacob Tremblay), Mia continually lies to gain his confidence. Encouraged by Heger, Mia edits her video clips into a sensational piece exploiting the notion of a family broken by suicide.

Losing Her Moral Compass

Of course Heger encourages the edginess of Mia’s article, unconcerned about how the ethical line has been crossed. Indeed, Heger’s own interviews slant and distort the truth. What’s one more notch on her belt to propel and maintain her success? For her part, Mia’s blind ambition discounts her own moral failings. Subsequently, when Heger steals her piece and pumps it to a professional level without crediting Mia, Mia’s outrage seethes, hypocritically. When she confronts Heger stating “you stole my story,” Heger rebuffs her and attempts a further seduction by offering a better job with the network.

Instead, Mia sends a hidden recording of her damning exchange with Heger to a rival station. Ironically, while Heger’s enemies have a field day feeding off her downfall, Mia’s blindness increases. Indeed, her stance as “righteous individual” plays into the hands of a system that makes it difficult for women to excel. Mia has devoured her mentor, whom the system compromised and demeaned. Both suffer, hapless creatures struggling against a setup they don’t control.

Underneath the manifest story between Mia and Heger, the true irony reigns. Who owns the networks? Though Heger had power and kept it for a time, using her journalism class to steal ideas for her edgy, stark pieces, corporate executives blindsided her, allowing her self-aggrandizement, fueling her belief in her own invulnerability. Pride occluded her judgment. Though she brought in the ratings, her preciousness had an end-date. As an embarrassment and morally bankrupt, her credibility and value mean nothing.

he executives own Heger, who is not part of the higher echelons of power. Duped, a puppet like her students, her arrogance and ambition design her inevitable fall. Only in this more intricate revelation does the filmmaker redeem herself from the hackneyed. That, along with her fine direction of talented actors, makes Cold Copy an interesting, complex film.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' ( 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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